The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Hay Fever” was written in the author’s maturity, though not in his old age. It demonstrates that A. D. Hope, although he is sometimes considered primarily an imitator of eighteenth century poetic technique and a facile satirist, was also an innovator in structure and a lyricist at heart. While he was perhaps indebted to Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift in attitude, he was not in method, for he took numerous liberties in both structure and content that they would not have approved. In place of regular stanzas, the closed couplet, and iambic pentameter, Hope freely intermixed stanza and line lengths and uses iambs, dactyls, trochees, and anapests in lines that vary in length from tetrameters to alexandrines; further, he made use of both single and double rhyme in alternating lines or in lines widely separated; the four stanzas of this poem are in eleven, thirteen, eight, and eleven lines. In fact, this poem shows Hope in a somewhat uncharacteristic light, for he was generally observant of the niceties of Augustan poetic technique.

The poem opens with the general observation that “Time,” personified as the grim reaper with scythe in hand (a commonplace in art of the Western world as well as in end-of-the-year cartoons), is a mature, skilled workman who is ever alert and at his task of claiming lives, usually without discrimination. The poet expresses his relief that it is not yet his turn to die (though he is “Waiting my turn as he swings”), and then he recalls how he himself...

(The entire section is 614 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The principal poetic device in “Hay Fever” is the analogy between Time as a reaper and the poet himself as first a literal wielder of a scythe and then as a reaper of the joys of life, “stacked high,” though intermixed with “a thistle or twofor the prick of remorse.” Other figures and tropes abound: Personification is used to make Time more forceful, as when he “takes a pace forward” and swings “from the hip” like a masterful harvester. It is used again in reference to the still, dewy stalks that “nod, tremble and tilt aside” and the dandelion that “casts up a golden eye”; the dying grass sighs, the steel scythe sings. Time drives a harvester.

Metaphors are used throughout the poem. Almost every line uses them, from the initial image of Time’s scythe being honed fine to the last line’s image of lying still in well-cured hay and drifting into sleep (death). Other effective devices are the similitude of a barn stacked high with “good, dry mow” and a brain full of pleasant remembrances, and the statement “I am running with, flooding with, sweat”—an illustration of hyperbole, which occurs sparingly. There are also a few similes of merit: the sigh of dying grass like animal breathing, and romping like a boy in the heap of harvest.

As in much of Hope’s poetry there is evidence that he values those compositional elements that were especially prized in the eighteenth century and that he, as a professor of English, taught: parallelisms, balanced statements, antitheses, trials, and...

(The entire section is 630 words.)